2018 Texans rookies made impact, have bright future

The Texans 2018 rookie class was a productive one.

Because of trades in 2017, Houston didn’t pick until the third round of last April’s NFL Draft. But when they did, general manager Brian Gaine and the Texans made the most of their chances.

“This is a very strong rookie class that we have in here,” head coach Bill O’Brien said in a Sunday press conference. “A lot of these guys played a lot of snaps, got a lot of good experience. But, we didn’t start picking until the second day.”

All told, there 35 starts made by a Texans rookie. 23 came on offense, and all 12 on defense were by safety Justin Reid.

Taken out of Stanford, Reid was that first Texans selection in 2018, and he was a bright spot on the NFL’s fourth-ranked scoring defense. The 68th overall selection, Reid started a dozen games, including the final 11, and shared the team lead in interceptions (3) with Andre Hal. He also finished with 81 tackles, and said he grew throughout the season.

“It’s wild,” Reid said Sunday. “I feel like a completely different player. I feel like I’ve really settled into my role here. Really comfortable with the system.”

Reid turned in one of the defensive plays of the season in a Week 11 victory at Washington, picking off an Alex Smith pass in the end zone and racing 101 yards for a touchdown. He’s already anxious for 2019.

“I’m really excited about my sophomore campaign because I know I’m going to be attacking it headfirst,” Reid said. “I don’t have to go through those games to get adjusted to the speed of the NFL.”

He wasn’t the only rookie to make an impact.

Mississippi State offensive lineman Martinas Rankin started a trio of games at left tackle, and one at left guard, picking up valuable experience. He’ll likely challenge for a starting position up front next autumn.

Jordan Akins, who after Reid and Rankin, was the final Texans selection of the third round, started six games at tight end. He caught 17 passes for 225 yards and will likely see more action next season.

Texas Tech receiver Keke Coutee was Houston’s first pick of the third day, as the fourth-rounder was the 103rd overall pick. He was electric during OTA’s and the early part of training camp before a hamstring injury. Coutee’s debut at Indianapolis came in the team’s first win of 2018, and he was a big reason why. He grabbed 11 passes for 109 yards in that win, and would start twice. In six games during the regular season, he caught 28 passes 287 yards and a score. Coutee led the Texans in the playoff loss to the Colts with 11 more catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.

But the hamstring injury kept him out of 10 total games in 2018.

“It was a lot of ups and downs this year,” Coutee said. “Obviously wish I could’ve played more, but I know what I have to work on now so I’ll come back next year better.”

Tight end Jordan Thomas was a sixth-round pick from Mississippi State, and he will be an intriguing weapon in the offense in the years to come. Four of his 20 receptions were touchdowns, and the 6-5, 280-pounder was a red-zone matchup problem.

Houston turned around the special teams performance in 2018, and the rookie class played a big role in that. The Texans led the NFL in opponent’s starting field position, as the other team on average started at it’s own 25.5 yard line. Houston was second in starting field position, beginning at its own 31.3, on average.

Sixth-rounder Peter Kalambayi was fourth on the Texans in special teams tackles with eight, while rookie free agent A.J. Moore led the way with 11 special teams tackles, and fellow rookie free agent Buddy Howell was third with nine.

Undrafted rookie free agent Trevor Daniel was the team’s punter, and he was fourth in the NFL with 36 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

After the lack of early picks last season, O’Brien is enthused by having a first rounder (23rd overall) and two second rounders (54th overall from Seattle, 55th overall).

“Having some early round picks, as long as we work hard at it and we all see it through the same set of eyes, and obviously we make a pick of a guy that’s a talented guy that loves football, that is a great representative of the Houston Texans organization, then, yeah it’s good,” O’Brien said. “It’s definitely good to have early picks.”

The Texans own seven 2019 NFL Draft picks. The overall picks for rounds five through seven will be determined in late February.

TEXANS 2019 DRAFT PICKS

1st round (23rd overall)

2nd round (54th from Seattle)

2nd round (55th)

3rd round (87th)

5th round

6th round

7th round – from New York Giants, via trade with Denver

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 5/20/2019)

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